Saturday, June 19, 2010
Group C, Round 2: The Day After
All four teams in Group C, which includes the United States, played on Friday in South Africa. The US battled Slovenia to a 2-2 draw while Algeria and England slogged it out for a 0-0 draw.
The US-Slovenia match was an emotional roller coaster ride for the fans of both teams. Slovenia was clearly the better team during the first half of the match. Once again, the US gave up an early goal when Valter Birsa scored in the 13th minute for Slovenia. The US seemed to sleep walk through the first half and were lucky that Slovenia only managed to pick up one more goal when Zlatan Ljubijankic scored in the 42nd minute.
As the second half kicked off, it was clear that the US side had finally woken up and realized they had a big hole to crawl out of in order to have any shot at advancing past the group stage. Landon Donovan set the tone for the second half when he scored a goal in the 48th minute. Meanwhile, Slovenia looked tired, as if they had used the majority of their energy during the first half, and, as a result, the second half became very chippy with three Slovenian players picking up yellow cards. Finally, Michael Bradley managed an incredible goal in the 82nd minute when Jozy Altidore used his head to cross a Donovan free kick to Bradley. Minutes later it appeared that the United States had done the unthinkable, picking up a third, and possibly winning goal, when Maurice Edu put the ball into the goal on a free kick. However, the goal was disallowed by match referee Koman Coulibaly.
It's not clear why Koman Coulibaly called a foul that disallowed Edu's goal, and it appears that we will never get an explanation for his call. While it's understandable that the US team and fans are angry with Coulibaly, had the US played better in the first half, the call might not have mattered as much.
After experiencing the emotions of the US-Slovenia match, it was hard to get focused on the England-Algeria match. My general impression was that England looked unfocused despite getting off 6 shots on goal. In the end, England was booed off the pitch by their own fans.
Coming into this World Cup, I was concerned that all the hype surrounding the England-US match would mean that both teams would be on an adrenaline high for that match and would have trouble focusing on the next match or matches. Both England and US did look unfocused on Friday, but the US managed to pull out of their funk while England did not.
The group stage for Group C wraps up on Wednesday when US plays Algeria and England plays Slovenia. Right now, the standings in Group C are as follows:
Slovenia 4 points
US 2 points
England 2 points
Algeria 1 point
The US controls its destiny going into Wednesday's match with Algeria. A win will ensure that the US advances to the knockout stage of the World Cup finals.
It should be noted that American striker Robbie Findley has picked up 2 yellow cards in the first two matches; therefore, he won't be available for Wednesday's match against Algeria. I suspect we will see Edson Buddle get his first World Cup finals start on Wednesday.
In past World Cup finals, had the US gone down 2 goals in the first half, the match would have been over. While it is nice to see that this US team has the ability to bounce back from goal deficits, it would be even nicer to see them take and hold a lead. That's what US needs to do against Algeria on Wednesday.
As for England, it is unclear how they'll look against Slovenia. Despite all the pronouncements in the English media that this World Cup was the one that England was going to win, England is now in a position where they might not even advance past the group stage. England are in need of a serious attitude adjustment if they hope to have a good result against Slovenia on Wednesday.
Here's a look at what the papers in the US and England are saying about Friday's Group C matches:
In Defense of Koman Coulibaly. Sort of. - New York Times
Stunning Rally. Shocking Goal. - New York Times
US Rallies for Tie - Washington Post
Analysis: Referee's call leaves Americans fit to be tied - Bergen County Record
US Rallies to Tie Slovenia - St. Petersburg Times
US players left stunned by referee call - Philadelphia Inquirer
England v. Algeria: fans boo one of their team's most inept performances - The Telegraph
Rooney blasts angry fans - The Telegraph
World Cup 2010 paper view: England Mess up. Blame the the Italian. - The Guardian
Martin Samuel: We were promised Rooney. We got his ghost. - The Daily Mail